I worked with Franck and Isabelle for six months before I had the confidence to believe their urgings to go out there and get a proper, paying job.
During those months I’d come in every Thursday morning at 9 am and they would already be hard at work – they live in the flat above the restaurant with their two young daughters so don’t have much of a commute. I’d finish at about 2.30, have lunch with them, drive home, sleep for an hour and then come back at 6 to find Franck and Isabelle already working hard. We’d work until about 1030 or 11 and I’d go home to crash, usually until midday the next day.
And I’d marvel that they did that day after day after day. They closed Tuesday evenings and all day Wednesdays and took a couple of weeks holiday every November, but had already been working to the same rhythm for 18 years when I first met them. This was back in 2005 and they’re still doing it now and show no signs of stopping before they retire in another 20 years or so.
Yet somehow the fact that I needed almost a whole day to get over working one day a week with them didn’t put me off looking for a proper job as a cook, and it didn’t take me long to find one.There are, I now know, a lot more jobs in French restaurants than people who want to do them.
I had sent off two CVs with accompanying lettres de motivation. Letters of motivation – cover letters – are more important than CVs in France; a CV lists bald facts – where you worked, when, how clever you are as measured by how many exams you’ve passed. The lettre de motivation explains – quelle coincidence! – how this job, yes this very job is perfect for you and, what’s more, how – quelle coincidence incroyable! – you happen to be the perfect, yes the very perfect candidate for which this employer has been so tirelessly searching! Amazing!
The Michelin gaff never replied, but I got an interview with a Traiteur-restaurant in Nimes. When I recounted all this to Frank and Isabel at Labahou, though, they expressed surprise that I should consider myself a humble plongeur – why, I’m at least a commis chef in terms of experience and what I’ve accomplished with them, they say very flatteringly. I don’t feel that confident though, fearing that a chef would want a commis to be able to make him a roux sauce, perhaps, or fillet a salmon or something I’ve never done before. Pfft, says Franck, most commis I’ve met have no idea how to do those either.
Hmm. I go to see the traiteur anyway and, in retrospect, I can see that he was much too keen to take me on. I should have paid more attention to his story about how the person whom I was replacing – also, apparently, English – had to rush back home because of his sick mother, or his divorce, or something equally complicated and unclear. But at the time I was flattered by his attention, flattered at his interest and very interested in his promise to put me through catering college the following year whilst still working for him. Also, he knew a bit about rugby.
It went wrong, of course, almost from the first day. He was both an outrageous liar – there was never any chance of him putting me through catering college – and he had an absolutely frightening temper, the sort of temper that would make Gordon Ramsey quake in his steel-toed shoes.
In short, I got bollocked for absolutely everything I did. Everything. For example, one day as we were standing behind the counter of the canteen I ran for him in a large food processing company, he asked me to pass him a packet of serviettes from under the counter. I bent down and picked up one blue and one red packet, asking which he wanted? He chose the red and I put the blue packet back where I’d found it.
« Why are you putting those serviettes back there? » he screamed at me.
« Because that’s where I found them, » was apparently not a valid response. In fact, the simple act of putting serviettes back where I’d found them turned out to be a crime whose heinousness was right up there with putting cod in bouillabaisse or eating well-done steaks.
He also had his foibles, but they were the good part of the job. We were told to leave lights on and taps running because his deal with his landlord meant he didn’t pay electricity or water bills, but transport absolutely everything larger than a cheese sandwich on a trolley in case you drop it; peel kiwi fruit with a spoon; don’t use tea towels for anything other than taking hot stuff out of the oven and instead carry a damp cloth everywhere with you to wipe up and use paper towels to dry afterwards.
To start with I thought my duck’s back/water mentality would see me through, having been bollocked and shouted at by everyone from tabloid newspaper editors to Lord Lieutenants Of Montgomeryshire in the past.
But he wore me down. Him and his sous-chef who just didn’t like me for reasons never really explained, although I suspect he was jealous of my car (I still had my BMW from my high-paying days as a journalist on expenses) and annoyed by my lack of the talents they wanted me to have. Whatever the reasons he spent his whole day criticising, bollocking and carping at me, teaching me that, in fact, I can only take so much of being treated like an asshole all day, every day before I have to give up. Things like watching me do something and then, 30 seconds before I finish it, appear to tut that I haven’t already finished.
I started at 8 every morning – getting up at six – by finding seven or eight salads composés (either bought-in ones or something I made myself from whatever I could find) for the ‘self’ (self-service canteen) next door to the kitchen where we did about 30-40 covers a day. This wasn’t as easy as it sounds as quite often there weren’t any lying around and the S-C, who was in charge of these things, jealously guarded them for, well, for himself I guess.
I learned plenty of weird and useful stuff, too. Like how to peel a melon, for example. Peel a melon? Oh yes, peel a melon. Lay it down longways, cut off the two ends; stand it up on one end and, as always, using the HUGEST knife you can find (chefs here always work with the HUGEST knives they can find, as opposed to Labahou where they worked with the smallest) cut down the side, following the contour. Repeat with all eight melons you’re currently peeling, then portion.
I learned how to make three gallons of mayonnaise at once, hard-boil 48 eggs at a time (hint: use a steam oven) and learned how to wash lettuce all over again. And how to stack lettuce leaves vertically in polystyrene boxes. I am not making this up.
And then there was the Vacuum Packing Machine, the second bane of my life; it was almost impossible to seal anything up and get it right and not wrinkle the bag – it once took me an hour to do four bags of veal in Sauce Forestier, much to the S-C’s amusement. The problem is that you mustn’t have any oil or grease along the seam so I had to spend ages and ages wiping and wiping it with bits of paper towel. Which, of course, is a waste of my time according to Chef. And a waste of his good paper.
I ultimately discovered that both the Chef and Sous-chef had been away on a THREE DAY training course learning how to use the sous-vide machine, three days which translated into a two-minute lesson for me from the S-C. And a one-minute lesson contradicting all the major points by the Chef.
It was experience, and I was learning, learning a lot, not least about working with assholes. I learned how to work quickly and cleanly; how to spend nine hours a day on my feet; new techniques; new recipes.
And I was proud of myself for sticking with it – I even turned down an interview with another restaurant just over a month into the job, telling myself that the learning curve was flattening out. Pfft. It was Stockholm Syndrome. I realised one day towards the end of my second month when, over a traditionally short lunch break (we got about 10-15 minutes a day) I had an interesting conversation with Chef about Swiss rubbish collection methods (they weigh your rubbish there). I was pathetically, tragically pleased to have had a real conversation with him and to have made him laugh. I felt like a puppy-dog performing tricks, eager to please and coming back for second, third and fourth beatings afterwards.
The truly remarkable thing was that I still wanted to go on being a cook after everything he did to me, unlike poor Cedric the work experience ‘stagiaire’ who came down to Nimes all the way from Paris for a month learning how to cook. He left in tears after four days, bollocked beyond belief by Chef and the Sous-chef for, well, for existing mostly.
But I was not learning how to become the sort of cook I wanted to be with this traiteur so I started applying for jobs again. My first interview in Avignon, where I was now living for various ludicrous romantic reasons was, it turned out, for a job as a restaurant manager – sort out the ordering, make sure the chefs in the three (rather posh) restaurants the bloke owns have what they need, keep an eye on the table napkin levels, that sort of thing. Shame really, these are three very nice restaurants but this job is way outside my competency and experience, and it’s not what I want to do at all, although the owner thought my previous life as a journalist suited me eminently to the task. What? OK, right. More jobs than staff in this profession, remember that.
The next interview went better, in one of the city’s posh gastronomic hotel/restaurants, La Table des Agassins a few minutes outside the city walls. Chef kept me waiting half an hour, giving me plenty of time to study the menu on the wall in reception – pigeon, Provençal and pyramid are the words that stick in my memory later. He seemed nice but I wasn’t sure he liked me enough.
So on Friday I was enguelé (I do love that French word: engueler, to bollock someone, to mouth off about them. Comes from the word ‘guele’ meaning mouth or throat – i.e. to give someone a right mouthful. Lovely) for taking more than five minutes to drive 25 kilometres; for putting too much vinaigrette on my tomatoes at lunch (the tomatoes I was eating myself, note, not the tomatoes I was serving to someone else); for cutting potatoes into exactly the same size and shape chunks demonstrated by the sous-chef; and for leaving at the end of the day before the chef himself.
I was tempted, when he demanded to know where I was off in such a hurry, to tell him the truth, but didn’t. In fact I was off for a trial evening as plongeur/aide de cuisine at the Table des Agassins in Le Pontet, just outside Avignon. Two minutes up the road from where my then girlfriend lived, in fact, and therefore dead handy in many respects. The cars parked in front of the hotel ranged from top-of-the-range S-Class Mercedes (the big ones that Voom! by you on French motorways) to Ferraris and Porsches. Yes, that sort of hotel and restaurant: gibier du saison, heavily-worked fresh foie gras, dôme de chocolat, pigeon something, a wine list which comes plastic-coated to make it easier to remove the dribble.
That sort of place. Gastro, as in Gastronomic and where chef Jean-Rémy Joly is regarded by his peers in the Disciples d’Escoffier group (entry by invitation only and no, I’ve never been invited) as one of the best in the region.
Anyway; park your rotten BMW round the back where no one can see it, says the chap in the chef’s outfit who turns out to be David, the seconde de cuisine and a very decent chap, even if his chef’s whites are black with white piping. Change over there and follow me into the kitchen.
Chef shows me round: this goes here, that goes there, and the other stuff goes (here we plunge through the bowels of the boiler room) here in the economat, the pantry. This is where the tins and jars are stored, and straight away I think I’m going to like him because he has laid in a large supply of Savora mustard. Yum, my kind of guy (I’ve loved Savora since I first ate it at the age of about 14 during my first stay with the Boisson family in Nice).
And on to the plonge, another good word. A plongeur is either a diver (as in scuba, deep sea, what have you) or a washer-up; the effects are much the same – you get soaking wet and go round the bend. Usual deal, he says, professionally speaking: two giant metal sinks already filled with pots, two giant plastic soak bowls already filled with plates, a couple of metal tables, an automatic dishwasher, a few scraps of cloth, the remnants of a green pan scourer and a few whisps of a metal scourer. Par for the course. This is the produit, this is the javel – bleach – make sure you give the silverware a good polish when you dry it and tasty morsels of meat left over go into this ice-cream container for the maitre-d’s shitsus.
And oh, says Chef: very sorry about this but the management say I can’t pay you for tonight as it’s a trial – I understand if you want to go now. I stay. And oh, he says, the position isn’t actually vacant – the young girl doing it at the moment won’t make her mind up if she wants to stay, so I’ll let you know. OK?
So. Fill the sinks with the hottest water going and off we go, stopping only four hours later when it’s all finished. I sweat buckets, really buckets, until the maitre-d’ tells me it’s OK to open the window and that cools things by a good two degrees. The procedure is mechanical enough: soak everything as quickly as possible in boiling water, scrub with the metal scourer (except for the seconde’s precious new non-stick pans), onto the racks, through the machine, out the other side for a good wipe and polish and then wander round the kitchen for 10 minutes wondering where the hell they go.
And then four hours later it’s all over, ‘On a fait un service,’ the seconde tells me and shows me where to find the disinfectant hosepipe (no ordinary water in the hosepipes of French kitchens you know), hose the floor down, raclette up the mess left by the previous plongeuse behind the cupboards and articles on the floor…and rest.
So, 11.30 and only me, Chef and the maitre-d’ are left. Sorry I was so slow, I say. Not at all, he says, I expect the plonge to be finished between 2330 and midnight, you’ve finished at 2330 and, to boot, you’ve done a good job. In fact, he adds, you’ve done such a good job I’ve been going through the stacks of plates in the kitchen to add in the ones the current plongeuse hasn’t cleaned properly so you could re-do them.
And, he adds, I’m going to pressure her to make her mind up and go so I can give you the job.
And oh, he adds, as he walks me back to my car, sorry again I wasn’t able to pay you for tonight but you know management. Here, he says, take this – and he pulls 20 euros out of his own pocket and gives it to me.
I like this man. Not only is he kind and generous, he didn’t come in once during the evening and shout at me for washing up the wrong way, or for putting too much vinaigrette on my tomatoes. I’d like to work for him – fingers crossed that nana ups-sticks and lets me have the job.
But I had to go back to the traiteur the next day, for more bollockings and a real kick in the face: we’d sprouted a second stagaire, a cookery student on work experience; such a post was promised me when I was first hired – now I’m told I can do it when they’ve finished – in two year’s time. Ha. I don’t expect to be here in two years, I want to say. But don’t. The second stagaire appears to be called Cyril – at least, he responded to that name when the S-C used it. Unfortunately for him he has my physique, not that of young Sabrina, so he isn’t going to get away with everything like she does. “Doesn’t she have lovely eyes,” the S-C says of Sabrina.
Anyway. I’m still hoping the Chef from Friday will call me and give me the job; he seemed nice enough, and I don’t imagine many chefs reach into their own pockets to pay their plongeurs.
But then I think I’m coming down with Stockholm Syndrome, and I don’t think Vitamin C is going to help with this one. I started making jokes with the S-C and discussed the football – even pretending I could give a shit about it – and, at one point, made a pointed remark against young Cyril.
Which is more worrying. The culture of bullying made me actually shout at the S-C yesterday, when he engueuled me because the chef engueules him for things he hasn’t done.
“Both you and he are always bollocking me for things I haven’t done,” I told him. “The chef bollocks you, you bollock me and none of it’s down to me! That’s how life is here!”
I seemed to actually give him pause for thought, because instead of just shouting at me he said, “Really? Do you think so?” And since then he was actually quite nice to me, asking me to do things rather than shouting and asking my why I haven’t already done them.
So I found myself feeling ultimately quite depressed when I realised this, and that I’ve started to fall victim to whatever the kitchen equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome is – Plonge Syndrome or something, perhaps.
But I did refuse to pass on a bollocking to young Cyril who had, in fact, caused me a lot of grief. He’d done the mise en place for the self-service cafeteria which I look after at lunchtime; or rather, he put together the trays of salads, puddings, cheeses and so on and I did the mise. However, he’d done no new puddings, no new cheeses and some pretty ropey salads.
So as I was sorting all this out, trying to bring out the hot dishes and do my other work too Chef found me in the middle of it with plates and trays and salads all over the counter – and punters already arriving. Now, if I’d been him I’d have plunged in, scraped together some desserts, smiled at the punters and gone and pulled the hot plates out of the oven.
Instead, he pulled me aside and bollocked me for the state of the counter. Who, he asked, is responsible for this? I told him I didn’t know but thought that Cyril had done the trays that morning. So off he marched and I heard him bollocking the young lad, including the memorable scream, “You must reply to me when I’m talking to you!” Memorable because replies are the one thing he doesn’t want to hear and, if you do start saying something, he’ll hop from foot to foot with his hand in the air as if he were a schoolboy trying to attract teacher’s attention.
So then Chef bollocked the S-C for not looking over the trays that morning and then the S-C came to bollock me for not putting them right sooner. Which is when I told him that bollockings for no good reason were a way of life here and I was surprised he wasn’t used to it.
“Right,” he finished, “so now you can go and engueule Cyril for dropping you in the shit.”
I refused and said it wasn’t my place to do that, that Cyril had only been in the job for three days and I remember very clearly, from just five weeks ago, how bloody hard it is to remember everything you’re expected to do.
Then over lunch I said to Cyril, “I understand Chef may have mentioned to you how to improve the mise en place for the self?” He had, Cyril replied. “Cool,” I said, and left it at that. I felt quite brave.
And then I let myself down by moaning to the S-C that Cyril had only laid out 20 desserts for 35 punters. I felt ashamed the moment I’d said it, but it was too late. And then the S-C said that was absolutely fine! What a wanker, I’m sure they’re all really called Kafka and/or the place is lined with hidden cameras and I’ll be the star of an hilariously stupid “How idiots fall down in kitchens” TV reality show any day now.
I was struggling by the end. The sheer relentlessness of the engueulements was like a tidal wave; they came so thick and fast, I couldn’t believe they were happening myself – and I was the one standing there, trying to breathe through my mouth so I don’t smell the garlic on Chef’s breath as he explains, once again, how I’m stupid.
So Friday I walked into the shop after arriving in the delivery van from the kitchen carrying two trays of little dishes of mussels, prawns and something else in a yellow sauce, one on top of the other. Mme Chef took the top one off me as soon as I walked through the door, saying “I’ll put this in the window straight away”. On top of the second tray was the fiche explaining what was in it and what it was called, which Mme Chef had seen as she took the tray off me. It was there because it was windy and if I’d left it on the top tray it would have blown away.
Then a customer walked in as she was putting the dishes out and said, “Ooh that looks nice, what is it?”
Then Chef appeared in front of me and pulled me to the back of the shop. “Why haven’t you told Mme Chef what’s in the dishes? Now we’re in the embarrassing position of not being able to tell a customer about a dish and it’s YOUR FAULT!”
He didn’t want to hear me saying that Mme Chef had already seen the the fiche and that it was there, RIGHT FUCKING THERE IN FRONT OF HIS FUCKING NOSE. Jeezus. If he’d taken the time he spent bollocking me and instead had glanced at the fiche – it had about six words on it – he could have taken two paces forwards and told the customer what was in the dishes.
But no. Engueulements are more important. “It’s a question of communication, Monsieur Chris, you are the link between the kitchen and the shop, you are the one we rely on, it’s up to you to transmit the information between us to ensure the smooth running of this place, to ensure that our customers who are the ones who put the food on our plates, who pay us – even if it’s not very much (later in the day I delivered a pizza, a pain surprise – a country loaf stuffed with olives and grated carrots – and two boxes of sausage rolls to a customer, along with the bill for €107) – so we rely on you to keep them informed.”
IT’S RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF YOUR FUCKING FACE YOU STUPID IDIOT. If you leaned forward your nose would touch the piece of paper. If I had a third hand I’d pass it on to you right now. If you hadn’t dragged me to the back of the shop I could have told the customer myself.
Then he arrived at the kitchen at lunchtime in a really, really foul mood and screamed at everyone about how they weren’t obeying “The rules”. And I mean really screamed, worse than anything he’s done before. Perhaps he just isn’t getting laid enough or something. I hope so. Either that or someone’s replaced his lithium tablets with acid.
Hydrochloric, I hope.
Then chef from the posh restaurant at Le Pontet where I did the trial I liked so much a few days before left a devastating message on my batphone; his young plongeuse had decided to stay on so he couldn’t offer me the job but would be in touch if he needed someone in November. I rang him up that evening and asked if that meant his plongeuse wouldn’t stay in November. He said no, she wouldn’t as it would be part-time, busy for a few days with groups and then nothing for a few days. I told him I’d be available then and would call him in a couple of weeks.
The next few weeks were very, very hard; some days I got strange compliments, but mostly it was sheer, unrelenting bollockings. Very, very dark days indeed.
I dropped my CV into the best restaurants in town in the hope that one of them may be looking for someone, but nothing moving.
I rang Le Pontet again two weeks after the trial and asked him if he was going to need someone in November. He didn’t – but he will need someone for December! And that someone is going to be me! Hurrah, I’m outta here! OK. December.
I’d planned to work for the final month after giving in my notice in a polite and formal manner. I drove to work with my letter of resignation beside me early in November after speaking with Le Pontet, planning a little speech. And then I ended up quitting in screaming anger instead.
In fact, it all ended at ten to nine in the morning with a huge screaming match in the middle of his shop in front of the other staff and a couple of customers. With me hurling the keys to his delivery van to the ground and screaming that I’d had enough of his putain de job and his putain de bollockings, I’m off. I did all my swearing in French, too.
I’d planned to explain that I didn’t like driving the delivery van half the day, that I want to do more gastronomic cooking, and that whilst I know I don’t have to give any notice according to my contract, I’m doing the honourable thing here by giving Chef a month’s advance warning that I’m off.
It all started falling apart when I got into the kitchen and started loading the van; there were interminable extra bits to cram in and there was barely room for all that I needed, especially as the S-C kept coming up with more boxes to ‘Pack carefully, mind you’ and Chef called from the shop asking for a couple of boxes of the prawns I’d carried back from there the day before but which he now decides he needs after all.
But that was OK; what really started to piss me off was that the S-C kept calling me ‘François’ – even when I’d told him that my name is still Chris as it has been all my life. François is the other chef who started working at the same time as me and who quit on Thursday, the second person to go since I started on September 13, two months ago; the first one was one of the stagaires, the work experience students who only lasted a week. François crashed and burned after a huge row with Chef during which he, apparently, threatened the boss with a knife. Sounds cool.
Anyway. Into the van and up to the first delivery, the shop. I had the usual two deliveries in Nimes, the delivery in Vauvert and then back to the kitchen to pick up three further, big deliveries for the centre of Nimes. All the deliveries must be finished by noon when everyone wants to eat, of course, so time is tight and there’s no room for mucking about.
It’s not going too badly until Chef spots that one of the boxes I’m carrying is dripping across the shop floor; the S-C has packed those heavy prawns on top of a delicate carton of jus d’agneau. So, everything has to stop while Chef lectured me on how this had happened before, how it was my duty to inspect every single box I put into the van to ensure that this didn’t happen, how the business is now ruined and we were all going to be put out onto the street because of my stupidity. I did try asking him if he could do the bollocking later on, sorry, I know this is a mistake but I’m in a real hurry now. But this was not a bollocking, it turned out, this was part of my training, my on-the-job education into how to be a better cook. When I protested that listening to this now, right then, was going to make all the deliveries late he shakes his head in exasperation and starts again at the beginning.
I’d promised myself the previous evening, after yet another day of Kafka-esque bollockings, that if he did it one more time I was just going to walk out on him. So I took a deep breath – and listened politely then went back to the van to collect the rest of the delivery. After all, the shop was full of customers and I didn’t want to upset them. Where did I get the strength to stay? I’ve no idea; the courage of the stupid, I guess.
After I’d got half the delivery carried in he told me that the dozen large delicate porcelain plates of charcuterie scattered across the walk-in fridge had to go back to the kitchen before I did the rest of the deliveries. Good grief. So I started tucking them into delivery crates and carrying them out to the van.
Back in to the fridge Chef had placed two plates on a large oven grill and was putting them into a cardboard box. But, he warned me, be careful because they will slide around like this, and he demonstrates how they can move.
Ah, right, I said and looked around to see if there’s anything I can use in the fridge to wedge them in.
What are you doing? he asked. Look at me when I’m talking to you.
Sorry, I said, I was just looking for something to wedge them in with.
There is nothing in here like that, he shouted, look at me when I’m talking to you! This is important, this is how you learn!
So I look at him while he said hmm, perhaps we could put some film around them to hold them on to the grill, so I picked up the box and started to back out of the fridge. Where are you going? he said.
I’m going to find some film, I say. But I haven’t finished talking! he shouted. Look at me while I’m talking to you!
Chef, I say, I’m sorry but I’m in a real hurry today, I’ve still got to finish unloading the van, I’ve got to get these plates in, you want them wrapped in film now, and I’ve got all those deliveries for midday too, I really don’t have time to listen right now, can we do this later on please?
By now we’re both outside the fridge in the middle of the shop. All four members staff are standing round watching, as are two customers. It is ten to nine in the morning.
But Chef, I protested, you know how we’re busy today, if we discuss all this now then I’m going to be late with those deliveries and you’re going to be bollocking me later on today for that, too.
IF YOU’RE GOING TO GO ON LIKE THIS THEN WE CANNOT WORK TOGETHER! he screams at me.
FINE! I shouted back. I put the box of plates down on the ground and pulled the keys to the van out of my pocket and offered them to him.
Here you go, I say, I resign.
Oh no, he said, not like this, we’re not going to go on like this! and he threw his hands up as if I was pointing a gun at him.
I am fucking sick and tired of all this shit! I shouted back at him, and threw the keys on the ground at his feet and stormed out of the shop. He and his wife both shout at me to come back while the customers look on in bewilderment. I am sick and tired of this fucking job! I shouted as I went through the doors.
And then I was out on the pavement and free! Hurrah!
And then I realised that, while this may have been a cool moment and an Oscar-winning way to quit a job, I’ve done it six kilometres away from the kitchen where my car is parked. Oh well, a brisk walk will be good exercise.
Two minutes later my batphone rings; it’s Mrs Chef and she’s asking me to come back, I misunderstood, Chef wasn’t bollocking me he was just explaining to me how to do things, don’t leave us in the lurch like this with all these deliveries, come back now.
Ha! YOU LOSE! I wanted to shout down the phone at her, YOU need me more than I need you! YOU LOSE!
But I didn’t. I said that there was nothing to explain, that I was sick and tired of these stupid no-reason bollockings every day, I’m not coming back.
She started to protest, but I say no, that’s it and I hung up on her while she was still talking.
I was so proud of me. And I noted that, as always, this was all my fault, I was the one who had misunderstood him, I was the one who’d made the error, it was up to me to come back and apologise and learn the error of my ways.
I did wonder what I would have done if Chef himself had rung up and said Sorry, didn’t mean to get carried away there, let’s start over. But then he’s not that sort of person, he never makes mistakes and nothing is his fault.
It took me an hour to get back to the kitchen where the S-C could care less. Yeah, he admits, Chef has a problem with anger management, with controlling his ‘nervosité’ – it’s because his missus bollocks him all the time, the S-C reckoned. She bollocks him, he bollocks us.
I changed my clothes and left.
And it did feel good.